If you live in any large city in Japan, there is bound to be a Depachika with food delicacies not far away. Read this article to learn the pros and cons of the Depachika.
Discovering the Depachika
If you live in any large city in Japan, there is bound to be a department store not far away. Department stores デパート are a great place to find a designer hand bag, get the winter-essential Heat Tech items from Uniqlo, or your favorite Loft stationary. Not only are デパート known for the variety of stores, but also for their food!
The “Depachika” デパ地下（ちか）is a shortened form of デパート and 地下(basement), where quality food items can be found. Have you visited a bustling outdoor market in southeast Asia? I would compare the Japanese Depachika to one of these markets. The Depachika are popular and crowded, and boast excellent tasting (and looking) foods. You will probably be greeted by the store clerks and ushered to various food stands by the words “Irasshaimase!” いらっしゃいませ！ or “(certain food item) ikagadeshouka?” _______いかがでしょうか？
In this article, I will detail the pros and cons of the Depachika.
Pros of the Depachika
So many choices!
Depachika are laid out by category of food, and you can find almost anything your stomach is craving. Want a Chinese dumpling or donut? Craving delicious Japanese fried chicken 唐揚げ or a Katsu sandwich カツサンド? Looking for a birthday cake? Head to your nearest Depachika to purchase a snack, dessert, main dish or side dishes to pair with your meal. With everything from bread to deluxe obento to “zensai” 前菜side dishes, your stomach will thank you for wandering the aisles for delicious treats to take home.
Here is a list of some possible foods you can find at the デパ地下：bread and bakeries, salads, tempura, fried katsu, “obento” lunch boxes お弁当, dumplings like shumai or gyoza, kimchi, Korean pancakes “chijimi” チヂミ, souvenir food gifts, dango rice cakes, mochi variations, bubble tea, Japanese tea, chocolate, and so much more!
High quality food items
Not only is there a variety of food, but the Depachika are known for their high quality foods! You’ll probably notice that the fruits and vegetables are twice the prices of your local market, but the quality will be top-notch. So grab a pack of strawberries or grapes to share at your next work gathering.
Seasonal and specialty foods
Japan prides itself on special items during each season. During the summer, the Depachika may feature special かき氷shaved ice flavors. In the fall, get your chestnut rice 栗ご飯 or pumpkin-flavored desserts. In the winter, purchase your hot pot “nabe” ingredients or “mikan” mandarin oranges. In the spring, buy your ohanami picnic foods, sakura mochi and bamboo shot rice 筍ご飯. If you’re not sure what the seasonal specials are, just go to the Depachika to find out!
Why not head to the Depachika for some Kobe コロッケ croquette or a Morozoff cheesecake? Rather than having to go to the specialty shop, the Depachika is a good place to find various specialty items all in one place.
Cons of the Depachika
Depachika are one of Japan’s most beloved food markets, so expect crowds when you go! If you want to avoid extreme crowds, avoid the lunch and dinner hours, and do not shop on a Saturday or Sunday.
When you go to the Depachika, expect to pay higher prices. Most of the “zensai” 前菜 stands are priced by weight, so expect to tell the stand workers how many grams you would like. A pumpkin salad with raisins and grapes? A creamy burdock salad? A Korean noodle salad? Are your taste buds watering yet? These are some of the delectable options that you can find at the Depachika, but you will probably not pay one price but based on the number of grams you purchase.
The fruit and vegetable stands will sell high-quality fruit that is priced much higher than your local supermarket. But you can be assured that you are getting a tasty peach or watermelon when buying from these stands.
What are some of the most well-known department stores in the Tokyo area? Here are just a few of the top favorites: Seibu デパート in Ikebukuro, Tokyu Food Show in Shibuya, Mitsukoshi in Ginza, Takashimaya in Nihonbashi, Isetan in Shinjuku, and Daimaru in the newly remodeled Tokyo station.
What is your favorite food item to buy at the Depachika? Or maybe you’re just hearing about the wonder of the Depachika, and you’re excited to assemble your next meal with the Depachika delicacies.